Aimed at Bible readers: Not sure if this is a stupid question or not, but here it goes...?

Okay, so I see all these questions on the R and S boards about how mean and vengeful the God of the Old Testament is, and how he kills so many people without mercy, and how the God of the New Testament is such an amazing being that's really sweet and benevolent. Now, I'm an Orthodox Jew and have chunks of the Old Testament memorized (in Hebrew and English), I'm so familiar with it, but I've never read the New Testament before.

My question is that I don't really get how the Old Testament god is such a malevolent character. I mean, I know God kills a lot of people in the Old Testament, and decrees that many should be killed...but they deserve to die! Right? And is it such a difference to the New Testament god?

15 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    The NT God kills a person in major violence & it's the CENTERPIECE of the book. It is certainly not a less violent image.

    However this idea comes out of, oh here we go again (doesn't this get tiring to reference?).... antisemitism developed long ago against Judaism by claiming the difference. You know how the OT that Christians used is based on Tanakh (Jewish bible) but has changes here or there that support Christian theology? It also has changes that make the OT God look a lot worse than in the Jewish Tanakh.

    I was reading some psalm in the end (in the 80's) & to read the two versions you'd never know the poem was about reaching out to God for guidance & strength. It sounds like a poem about God instructing people to kill with vengence in the OT version. So, some of this is that aspect.

    Add to it that you read & see the whole context, that the people killed are part of a storyline in which they are doing wrong & unrepentant to begin with. For a long time Christianity didn't allow or encourage it's followers to read, so this image came up before they saw it all for themselves.

    There is also a lack of understanding of how to read it Jewish style. This seems to come up a lot for non-Christians who assume Jews read it Christian style too. Then try to beat up on Christianity through the Jewish texts. They read it as literal & not as stories from which to glean lessons (& not the lesson of killing, but the lesson of what God sees as good & not good.)


    Bad Tim

    She is reading it allegorically. That's why it makes sense to say everyone in Gomorrah deserved to die & there fore it's not a vengeful story.

    That does bring up a bit of answer that Talia would be unfamilar with... some of Chrisitanity read this all as very literal in a way Judaism doesn't. Without the lessons learned & layers of meanings, it just becomes different looking stories. In NT when a story is allegorical, it's obvious. In Tanakh the literal looking stories are allegorical too, to us, but not to those type readers. That's hard to explain in words, but you'll start to see as you hang around.

    Edit: I know how to say it... Christians are supposed to "be like" Jesus. In Judaism God has powers & wisdoms outside our understanding, so we're supposed to work hard to figure out what the stories really mean. We see them as history & God having rights we don't have...

  • robb
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    In my opinion there are two types pf people who promote this idea. The first type are those who do not believe in God or are looking for excuses not to believe. (How can you believe in a God that............?)

    The second type are those who believe in a version of the Marcion Heresy which the Catholic Church supposedly stamped out in the early years of Christianity (2nd or 3rd century I believe) Marcion taught that very doctrine, that the "God of the New Testament"(aka Jesus) was a good God as opposed to the God of the Old Testament which was a mean vengeful God.

    You are right. No, there is no such difference between the God of the"NT" and the "OT" God. Its the same God, just some very faulty theology.

    Ex Christian.

  • 1 decade ago

    Well, I'm coming from the same background as you are, so I don't know the Chrisitain Bible at all, but I think the main problems people have with the "OT" God is that He seems pretty violent, and "Jealous" א-ל קנא. Other than those who deserved to die, like Korach and his followers (as we read a couple of weeks ago*), God also decrees things like "Wiping out Amalek," which is something that has bothered Jews througout the ages - how could God instruct us to wipe out even the animals and children (!?), and in other places, in battle Bnei Yisrael completely wipe out other nations, such as Sichon and Og.

    To answer these questions, I think kickthecan61 is right. God gives many chances, and in general is merciful and patient - א-ל רחום וחנון... frequently giving multiple chances.

    Like I said before, I don't know the Christian bible, so this probably didn't answer your question - it more agrees with it.

    (*BTW, the abarbanel (i think, it may be a different parshan) writes that after Hashem decreed that the first generation will die in the Midbar, most of ספר במדבר is simply a list of episodes showing how they all died off, which is why it's sin+punishment, one right after another.)

    @Natassia - "Does that mean God controls people's minds and moves them around like playing pieces on a chessboard?"

    The conflict between free will and God's involvement in the world is a great debate among classical jewish thinkers, with opinions ranging from "extreme free will," which entails very little involvement on God's part, to "extreme divine oversight," which severely limits our free will.

    To answer your question, there is a statement in the Talmud (I can't remember where) that God controls Kings - so, that, basically, Kings, who make big, broad decisions that affect thousands of people, have much more divine oversight. So when a nation invades Israel, one can say that the leader of that nation was guided to do so by God. In fact the Talmud (sorry, again I can't remember where) relates to Nebuchadnezzer, who destroyed the Temple, as "God's Messenger" to some degree.

    Another statement in the Talmud says that the Nation of Israel is not affected by nature/natural occurences. (Evidence:We're still around!)

    So when Israel is attacked by another nation, it is because God wants that to happen.

    (BTW, you may want to post this as a question in it's own right.)

    Source(s): Jewish - Orthodox. בברכה, שמואל
  • 1 decade ago

    Well; I don't come from the same background as you. I was born and raised Baptist Christian, so I've read both the New and the Old Testaments.

    But I am in the process of converting to Reform Judaism.

    Yes, it does sometimes seem like the G-d of the OT is vengeful and merciless, wheras Jesus' teachings are more about love and compassion; but it is my belief that G-d is G-d, no matter the time period. During the time of the OT, G-d gave multiple chances as His people failed Him time after time.

    But He is still the same G-d of the Universe; I just think He was percieved differently throughout time.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I don't get how people say god is malevolent in the Old Testament either. The more common phrase (but less attention getting for those glancing over the text) is "How long, Oh Lord..." God's people suffer under the violence and cruelty of Cain's descendants for over a millennium; an entire culture that practices ritual prostitution and child sacrifice for over 420 years; the poor, the widow, and orphan suffer injustice at the hands wealthy and well connected for centuries. All the while God is warning about what will happen, showing mercy to those who are doing wrong. Finally, as God warned, the hammer drops. Then the people pay attention -- when it's too late. I am amazed by how long God waited and how many 2nd and 3rd chances God gave and how much the people ignored the signs and difficulties leading up to the day of judgment. I am surprised that the more common complaint is not that God waits too long while the downtrodden suffer because of His mercy to the wicked.

    Also, the times of trouble and judgment are given more attention than the times of peace. The times of peace and closeness with God often reads like this "and the land had peace for 40 years until _________ died" or the "they had peace for 80 years..." after which the people began falling away again and the narrative picks up again in more detail about the stupid things the people did before they cried out to God for help. As a result the times of peace, prosperity, and boldness in life with God do not show up with the same prominence as when the people are in trouble.

    EDIT>> I think djmantx has it right.

    EDIT>> re Rabbi Shmuley Boteach... Rabbi Boteach's summary of the Christian view of suffering is incorrect AND he overlooks passages in the Tanakh that say roughly what the New Testament says. First, the post Tanakh Scriptures do NOT teach that suffering in itself is good or redemptive. They teach that GOD takes bad things and turns them around to our benefit. _God_ is the one who is the redemptive power NOT suffering. In Christianity this is called the Theology of the Cross -- God works most powerfully through things that are weak and despised.

    Joseph himself said this regarding his betrayal and suffering, "you [the brothers] intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Gen 50:20 David's confession is similar, "let the bones that you have broken rejoice." Psalm 51 The suffering ISN'T good, but GOD turns it and makes good come from it. Also, God regularly makes a point that Abraham was the most unlikely one to choose to make a great nation. God's choice of an old, childless man shows God's power rather than man's power at work.

  • 3 years ago

    The Bible account of Noah says rain and flood, no longer a typhoon, this suggests the Ark would of floated like a huge wood container. those that have confidence there became into thunder and lights and a typhoon that would of destroyed the Ark have not have been given any foundation for his or her have confidence yet "i assume or i think of" those that assume are ignorant to the capability of Jehovah. The Bible account says that Jehovah parted the waters so as that the earth became into coated via a cloud cover that would of blocked the heavens, the earth became into like a warm domicile. The water got here down as rain, it did no longer typhoon, it purely rained until the earth became into coated. Why the persons did no longer have confidence Noah(scriptures say Noah became right into a preacher of righteous for one hundred twenty years) So all of us understand that Noah pontificate the flood for as long because it took him to construct the Ark. yet like in the present day the international takes no observe, and prefer while the 1st drops of rain hit the faces of those returned then with the purpose to in the present day while Jehovah brings an end to this depraved equipment of issues will those that scoff and mock sense the comparable way that those in Noah's day felt, yet using fact of their goat like suggestions-set they too will sense the phobia like those some 4000 ++ years in the past felt, doom and destruction while all they had to do is pay attention now.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    What I've noticed is that the writers of the Tanakh attributed EVERYTHING to God, whether it be victory or losses, disease or healing, calamities or peace, etc.

    When an enemy country decides to invade and conquer Israel, for example, and they succeed...then it is described as punishment from God. If this was in fact a punishment, then does that mean God controls people's minds and moves them around like playing pieces on a chessboard?

  • 1 decade ago

    do you honestly believe that every last person before the flood and in sodom and gemorrah deserved to die? doesn't that logic remind you of anything?

    is it appropriate to you for an invading army to kill all the men and boys, rape and enslave the women and girls for the crime of having settled an area first?

    don't you think you'd be better off realizing that the tanakh is mostly allegorical?

    the new testament is irrelevant to judaism, so i don't even know why you would worry about it. it's the work of rebels who needed a way to rebuke the roman empire, and took what material they had at hand -- the tanakh, talmud, bhagavad gita, and a plethora of pagan myths. they also seemed to know very little about any of the material they culled from.

  • 1 decade ago

    There is absolutely no difference in the God of the O.T. and N.T.

    God is God and is both righteous and merciful.

    God is eternal and his plan form the beginning is our eternal salvation.

    Many without understanding misinterpret the O.T. as a different vengeful God without the understanding of God.

    God first gave man the law which demonstrates to man God's righteousness and man's need for God.

    God's plan is not that the law could make a man righteous it made no one righteous it was to show man his need of God and his need for a Savior.

    You are correct the OT demonstrates man is not righteous and inherited death. It is the reason God provides the Lamb..described in the OT by Abraham and Isaiah.

    Abraham said the Lord would provide himself a lamb.

    Isaiah said he would be as a lamb..

    John the Baptist announced.." Behold the Lamb of God"

  • 1 decade ago

    the spirit of God is one even if the world around changes...

    is not God that changes but the history is.

    The "nasty" things in the OT HAD to happen, in his will, even if that meant death to someone.

    many have died also after the NT, think of all the christian martyrs, isn't their death wanted by God.

    The Spirit has his Will that we cannot see. or sometimes not even recognize

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